Bernier continues to mature

Sport: Hockey (Boys)

Posted: March 8th, 0208 by Tom Nolette

Bernier continues to mature

By Kevin Mills , Staff Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008

LEWISTON - A year ago, Jonathan Bernier not only was trying to shake the rust from his game, but also get rid of the injury that plagued him much of the second half of the year.

Bernier missed much of the final months of the regular season with an ankle injury. He didn't return to the Lewiston Maineiacs' lineup until the final regular season games. By that point, he had to get his game up to snuff in a hurry.

"Last year, I came back at the end of the regular season because of my injury," said the goalie. "I was struggling at the beginning of the playoffs. Now, I'm just trying to be ready for the first game of the playoffs."

Bernier is well above where he was at the end of last season entering the playoffs. Despite losing 2-1 to the St. John's Fog Devils Friday night, Bernier continued his stellar play. He kept the Maineiacs in the game the last two periods and gave life to their comeback hopes.

"It's a team effort, but in the playoffs, everybody's got to upgrade their game," said Bernier. "If everybody does that, I think we have a good shot this year too. I had so much fun last year, I just want to do the same thing as we did last year."

Entering Friday's game, Bernier had been outstanding in his previous five outings. He had gone 4-1 and posted a 1.58 goals against and equally impressive .946 save percentage. His lone loss was a 2-1 decision in New Brunswick.

"I've just tried to be more focused," said Bernier. "Playoffs are coming soon. I've got to bring my game up. The games are so important that I want to try and give us the best shot to win those."

His recent string of games came on the heels of giving up seven goals in a loss at home. It had the Maineiac faithful booing Bernier and chanting for backup Peter Delmas.

"If you look back on my junior career, you always have a bad game in the year like that," said Bernier. "This one was at home. Last year, it was at Moncton. We're human sometimes. It doesn't bounce your way. My job is to stop the puck, and I'm just trying to be more focused."

Bernier made 23 saves in the loss to the Fog Devils Friday. Despite his fine play over the final two periods, St. John's netminder Timo Pielmeier overshadowed Bernier's performance. Pielmeier had 37 saves, 17 in the final period.

"He made some good saves, and he kept his team in the game," said Bernier. "My job is to try to keep my team in the game."

Bernier managed to keep the listless Maineiacs in contention despite giving up two goals in the first period. Both Fog Devil tallies came off turnovers in the defensive zone. After Lewiston lost the puck behind the net, Taylor MacDougall fed the puck out front to a wide open Wes Welcher. Bernier had little time to react or make the stop.

In the final minute of the period, another Lewiston mistake set up an open blast by T. J. Brennan that snuck by Bernier.

"We've just got to come out strong at first," said Bernier. "We were sloppy in the first period. We have to play right off the bat."

Bernier did get some help from his defense and the post in the second. Defender Michael Ward cleared a shot that got past Bernier and was headed into an open net early in the second. Then a Phil Mangan shot had an open right corner but hit the post.

Bernier did make crucial saves in the second to keep the Maineiacs within reach entering the third. He stopped Luke Adam in front for the second time in the period. Then while St. John's was on the power play late in the period, Bernier slid across the crease to make a sprawling save on Jean-Simon Allard.

In the third, Allard found himself on the doorstep all alone with the chance to seal it, but Bernier was there to make the stop and keep Lewiston's comeback hopes alive.

"I think I've been okay," said Bernier. "I'm just trying to be consistent."